Have We Burned Our Ships?
In Quest for Light, Maharaj Charan Singh Ji writes:
In the life of every satsangi there comes a moment to decide whether to run after the ephemeral pleasures of this world or to value more the true and everlasting bliss of the next.
One might think that this decision had already been made when we asked for initiation. However, Maharaj Charan Singh says this moment of decision is still there to be made by each satsangi. So this means that even after becoming disciples, we may not yet have made a full commitment to the path.
Centuries ago, a wealthy merchant became interested in the spiritual path. After much searching, he decided to seek initiation from a Guru who lived across the ocean. He acquired a ship and set sail. When he reached the harbour of the small town where the Guru lived, he dropped anchor and hurried ashore. He came before the Guru and asked to be accepted as a disciple. The Guru said: “Whose ship is that which I see floating in the harbour?” The merchant replied: “It is mine.” Hearing this, the Guru rejected him, saying he was unworthy.
The merchant was devastated. He sat for days on his ship. Until one morning, he rose and gathered his crew. Under his instructions, they set fire to the ship. When the ship had burned away completely, the merchant returned to the Guru. This time the Guru welcomed him and accepted him as a disciple. The Guru then explained to his other disciples that, as long as the merchant had his ship, he was keeping his options open. At any time when the going got tough, he could sail away in search of happiness elsewhere. Once he burned his ship, then he had fully committed himself to seek happiness only at the feet of the Guru and nowhere else. He had abandoned all other options. This, he explained was the level of commitment required to succeed.
So the question for us is this: Have we burned our ships? Are we still reserving the option to look for happiness elsewhere? Do we truly believe that we will only find what we are searching for by following the path or is the path more like our plan B, our insurance policy, in case we do not succeed in finding happiness in the world? When we encounter difficulties, do we sail away from the Guru and try other ports for happiness? Because only when we truly commit to him and burn our worldly ship will we approach that inner goal which brings lasting happiness.
Saints draw attention to the spiritual and material extremes of human behaviour to help us choose where we want to go. It is for us to shape our future and to choose what we want to be. If we want to obtain a happiness and contentment that does not keep changing, saints guide us to direct our attention inwards and experience inner joy. If we want the superficial excitement which is bound to end in confusion and ultimate pain of constant change, then we can put our energies to the world around us and let ourselves be ruled by our senses. Saints call a spade a spade. They do not spare their words when describing the implications of the choices we make.
A Spiritual Primer